Changing Limiting Beliefs
The way to change your limiting beliefs is through more adaptive experiences – not solely thinking – but involving action, a situational context, thinking, relational, and emotional aspects. In other words, a full lived experience. Make it as real of an experience as possible, but in a slower, more controlled way than real-time experience. Think of it like a training exercise. You learn it slowly and in as real of a simulated experience as possible. The new experience and perspective is either more realistic or more adaptive. This is a way to install new more helpful or realistic beliefs into your unconscious mind. By belief, I mean a new memory that creates a better automatic interpretation and expectation of reality and self. It’s a memory of an experience that creates an interpretation and expectation about reality for self, others, and the environment.
Reconsolidation is achieved through a new, dynamic, simulated lived experience in the context and simulated scenario of the desired change. Actively engaging is key because this is how experiential memory is formed – just as issues form through real life experience, so can more healthy experiences form through this type of dynamic lived experience (except it’s done at a slower speed just as any learning and training is accomplished).
I provide a complete template in the section below that consists of a distillation of the regulation, exploration, and change exercises found throughout this program that you can use to help change your implicit memory (the internal models and simulations) that are impacting your automatic interpretations and expectations about self, others, and the world. For the tools and concepts in the fourth section entitled “Solutions”, you do not need to utilize the template because this section is not for changing implicit memory – it is to help you solve current problems that are not directly a consequence of a lack of individuation, or maladaptive or unrealistic implicit memories.
It is inevitable that many of the tools in the various areas will be interconnected at a causal level because the cause of enmeshment can be a combination of lack of differentiation of self at an implicit level, distortions between one’s emotional landscape and reality, maladaptive approaches, and a lack of (or poor) problem solving skills.
Sometimes implicit memories are difficult to make explicit and so are not easily consciously accessible due to maladaptive implicit memories often being formed at a preverbal stage of development. As such, it is important to also apply the tools from each category in a proactive and sequential manner even when you are not aware of the issues when in your imagined situational or representative context so as to approach self-development in a holistic way.
You may be wondering how reconsolidation of implicit memory of a limiting belief can occur if you are not conscious of the issue or problem, or conscious of the process of change, for that matter. When you are imagining or role-playing a situational context this activates implicit memory, so it allows for the possibility of reconsolidation to occur even if you are not conscious of the issue. Remember, it is the activation of implicit memory that is required for implicit memory reconsolidation. And, most of our formative implicit memories were created outside of awareness which is actually the nature of implicit memory formation. Conscious involvement is only a tool to help facilitate the conditions – it does not directly change it – which fosters the formation of implicit memory through engaging in contextual, perceptual, procedural, and somatic experiences in a more adaptive manner to the person now.
The goal of overcoming limiting beliefs is to create a more adaptive internal sensory-spatial-perceptual-motor simulation that impacts your cognitive, emotional, interpersonal, behavioural, and somatic experience and functioning. Generally, this will involve changing the implicit perception eliciting the internal model, or identifying and developing solutions to deal with the implicitly perceived limitations whether they are currently relevant or only relevant to past experience. Individuation with concurrent healthy connection with others seems to be at the heart of these adaptive internal models. Nevertheless some of the Individuation interventions can be helpful as a standalone for a foundation of fostering a differentiation of self.
Changing implicit memory is not a one and done type of process. Like with learning most things well, it requires frequent, quality effort. Quality effort for each attempt is the most important. Think of the metaphor of putting small drops of water into a bucket. It takes a vast amount of drops to fill the bucket. The environment can cause the drops to evaporate – meaning, metaphorically, that if there are other counteracting experiences and if there is too much time between imprinted adaptive experiences then that which was formed in implicit memory could be decreased and the sponge of implicit memory may start to fill with other experiences. Consistent and quality effort for each attempt is the most important. Focus on quality, and quantity will come in time. Know that after each quality attempt or effort you make is having an impact on reforming the structure of your mind and brain.
When people experience inner turmoil it does not seem to help to solely try to think more accurately or positively. A person can think more accurately but still “feel” (implicitly believe and experience emotion) differently. What seems to be going on at a deeper level is that they already experience or feel differently because of an internal simulation that is activated. They can be aware of the more accurate thought, but still feel discouraged. So, the maladaptive thoughts and feelings follow the internal simulation – indeed, one’s physiology, emotional reactions, and affective state are based on these internal simulations even if one is not cognitively conscious of it.
This subconscious internal simulation produces the unconscious and consciously perceived responses of emotion (unconscious), feeling (conscious combination or emotion and perceptual interpretation), and behaviour (unconscious behavioural response, or a more conscious directed action). Note that some reflexive physiological responses such as retracting one’s hand from a hot stove occur prior to the unconscious internal simulation that is generated. But for relatively more complex situations an internal simulation seems to occur. It’s not about changing your beliefs about what happened. It’s about changing the subconscious limiting beliefs (implicit internal simulation) that you still have of yourself at an implicit or automatic level as a result of the past experience (e.g., you feel like a small helpless child, no one loves you, etc) that then influences your behaviour, feeling, thinking, and experience of self. A way to integrate what is more adaptive and constructive to one’s functioning is by focusing on the multiple areas that make up one’s actual lived experience, and engaging in an embodied experience, action, and context similar or representative of the issue – not just thinking, or behaviour, or primary emotion.
Having a new dynamic simulated lived experience in a similar or representative situational context is crucial. This is important to understand because new learning encodes in the memory systems associated with the type of experience you are trying to acquire. In other words, the types of systems (cognitive, emotional, interpersonal, behavioural, somatic) activated in the original or representative experience of the issue are the same ones you need to activate when trying to form a new way of being.
Solely focusing on thoughts and feelings is not effective because the key domains of implicit memory and processes are sensory/perceptual, motor, and somatic within a situational context. It is important to note, however, that a “feeling” can be a combination of emotion and limiting belief (perception) which people colloquially refer to when using the word “feel”. Some therapies use the term “feel” more precisely and are referring to core emotion apart from the implicit internal simulation.
If you find that you do not feel like doing some of the interventions, consider that you may be needing more, for example, self-soothing in the form of stress management. If for some reason any of the interventions are not enjoyable or motivating to do, then consider changing the time, duration and frequency that is more comfortable. Or, change the category of intervention altogether, such as self-soothing, community/social connection, or meeting your basic needs (food, sleep, exercise, etc).
When you’re trying to figure out which tool to use to overcome limiting beliefs, the specific automatic thoughts, feelings, impressions that arise will point to which tool to use. However, in order to accomplish this you need to be familiar with the tools at a procedural level because this is an art and science and involves both logic and creative intuition for determining what is needed and when. The only way to gain proficiency at this is through practice and gaining implicit familiarity at a procedural level.